NOSEWORTHY, John (by 1481-1530/32), of Ashburton and Exeter, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1481, ?poss. s. of John Noseworthy of Ashburton.2

Offices Held

Churchwarden. Ashburton 1502-4; bailiff. Exeter 1502-3, member of the Twenty-Four by 1508, receiver 1516-17, mayor 1521-2; commr. subsidy 1523, 1524.3


John Noseworthy came of a family traceable in the locality of Widecombe since the 13th century but his parentage has not been established. Either he or a namesake (possibly his father) collected money for wax for candles in Ashburton church during 1496-7. He was to become churchwarden there after his admission as a freeman of Exeter in 1501-2 but before he settled in Holy Trinity parish, Exeter: on several occasions he was to represent Ashburton’s interests in the city’s courts.4

Noseworthy soon established himself as one of the chief spokesmen for his adopted city and frequently travelled to the capital on its business, but it was not until April 1516 that in succession to John Orenge he became one of the city’s fee’d counsellors. Long before then, however, he seems to have given up his private practice as a lawyer to devote himself to public affairs. His integrity and fairness combined with his charm and generosity made him ‘honoured of the best, reverenced by the inferior and beloved by all’. During his mayoralty he reformed much of the administration of the city and it was he who ordered adequate storage for its records, thus earning him the gratitude of the antiquary John Hooker who rated him among the best of Exeter’s mayors. Before his many virtues were manifest he had stood for election to the Parliament of 1512 but gained only two votes at the poll. When 11 years later he stood again he was a proven man and as an ex-mayor he took precedence over his less experienced, but nevertheless outspoken, fellow-Member John Bridgeman. The pair received £8 before the opening and a further £10 before the second session, £2 being earmarked for civic business, presumably connected with the confirmation of a charter which they took with them. This was to be the high point of his career. Within three years his fee as a counsellor had ceased and he had largely withdrawn from Exeter affairs. Of his closing years all that is known is that he made donations regularly to the church at Ashburton until 1530-1. The will by which he left his ‘private concerns’ in Exeter for the advancement of the city was proved in the Guildhall there during 1531-2.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Muriel Booth


  • 1. Exeter act bk. 1, f. 100.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman.
  • 3. Ashburton Churchwardens’ Accts. (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. xv), 30, 31; R. Izacke, Exeter (1681), 104, 108, 111; Exeter act bk. 1, f. 1; LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv.
  • 4. Exeter, Hooker’s commonplace bk. f. 338; Ashburton Churchwardens’ Accts. 23, 31; Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 63.
  • 5. Exeter act bk. 1, ff. 1-101v passim; receivers’ accts. 1515-16 to 1525-6 passim; Hooker’s commonplace bk. f. 338; Tudor Exeter (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. xxii), 24, 44; J. Hoker, The description of the citie of Excester (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. xi), passim; Ashburton Churchwardens’ Accts. 52, 75, 80, 86; Izacke, 116.